You could be forgiven for not recognising his name. Although German born Eugen Sandow was a very famous Victorian, he isn’t so well known now. I suppose he was bodybuilding’s first international superstar, and a very enigmatic character.
He was to become a pillar of the establishment, and one of the most admired men in the country, single-handedly changing the way Britons thought about physical fitness. He was also a generous man who would go on to sponsor the 1908 London Olympics and provide financial support for Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to the South Pole.
Around 1910, much to the dismay of Cadbury and Rowntree, the strongman introduced his brand of ‘Health and Strength Cocoa’, claiming that the drink gave him the edge as a bodybuilder, but by 1913 the company was losing money. In an effort to save the company he deposited shares with trustees to be distributed in a widely publicised advertising promotion.
Every packet or tin of Sandow’s cocoa – and chocolate – contained an aluminium coin such as the one shown, and the idea was to collect as many as possible to have a chance of winning shares in the company. How it worked exactly, I fail to understand.
Alas, by 1914 the haemorrhaging of money was taking place at a disastrous rate and the start of World War I didn’t help. There was resistance to a German product and, by 1916, the firm was forced into bankruptcy.
Phil says, “I know that the token itself is worthless, but the fun of researching its history is priceless. How on earth can a metal detecting find related to a famous body builder from Prussia be related to a cocoa drink offering shares in the company … and also forcing the mighty Cadbury’s to lower prices?”
A slightly damaged promotional competiton token. The obverse features the bust of a moustachioed gentleman in a suit and stiff collar, facing left, enclosed by the inscription SAVE YOUR COINS […] NC YOU £1000 SANDOW. The reverse has [THI]S C[OIN] VOUCHER COUNTS AS 7 1/2D IN SANDOW’S COCOA & CHOCOLATE COMPETITION. This is enclosed in a wreath of leaves. PAS
The Rogue Legends Series – Chapter 1: Eugen Sandow
See other images HERE